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The Protruding Nail

semi-overcast 24 °C

One Japanese expression is, “The nail that sticks up should be hammered down,” and this philosophy of uniformity and orderliness permeates all aspects of daily life. There is nothing random about Japan or its people – everything in its place and a place for everything. Perfect little scenes greet us around almost every corner…
The pagodas and temples like these at Myajima and Asakusa are beautifully maintained…
The entrance to Tokyo station is a pristine cathedral despite the multitudes who pass through daily…
We will miss many things when we leave Japan: the cleanliness, the incredible trains; the wonderful sights; the amazing, (humbling), hospitality, the numerous kind and generous people like Yoshie and Haru who lent us their home in Kyoto and entertained us in Tokyo. This is Yoshie tempting us with a truly enormous pear…
Stories abound of the outrageously priced fruits in Japan, and it is true that we have seen perfectly formed, individually boxed, gift wrapped melons for $60 each. But similarly gilded lilies can be found in Harrods in London and other haunts of the mega-rich. But most Japanese today are not rich. Twenty years of stagflation coupled with the economic meltdown of 2008 has left the average wage trailing the cost of living by a wide margin.
From a tourist’s perspective Japanese prices are very reasonable – much cheaper than Canada. Entry to temples and shrines are generally free and museums and national treasures rarely cost more than $5. Even this famous Golden Pavilion in Kyoto only charges $4…
But not everything is perfect here, some things need attention. Although Japan is still largely a cash economy few ATMs take international cards. Credit cards are generally accepted – though most terminals appear to be steam driven and, unbelievably, some stores still use the carbon paper manual machines that went out with scurvy and reel to reel tape recorders. And no one here has ever heard of handheld card readers.
Bizarrely, Japan seems years behind technologically. Train conductors in India check reservations online instantly – without physical tickets or paperwork – while the poor old Japanese still use pencils and paper. However, unlike India, neither the tickets nor any other garbage ever ends up on the train floor…
The Japanese also seem behind when it comes to TV and the internet in hotels. If we had wifi at all in hotels it was often only in the lobbies and absolutely none of our hotels offered any English language TV.

P(ee).S. Since writing about the amazing toilets early on in our trip we have come across a whole new level of all-singing/all-dancing loos. In addition to those whose lids automatically raise and lower as you enter and leave, there are many with push button powered seat raisers and some where the inside of the bowl has artistic mood lighting. And then there are those that play the sound of a waterfall to cover embarrassing sounds, while others offer oscillating bidets that provide a most stimulating experience. (Note the instructions in braille)…
Some toilet's bowls have built-in extractor fans that gently waft away any malodourous misadventures, and some have an environmentally friendly sink in the lid of the cistern so that you can wash your hands without wasting water as the tank refills…
However, while saving water may be important to the Japanese it seems that they don’t have similar views when it comes to packaging. Absolutely nothing comes in a single wrapper when three will do. Every slice of bog-standard white bread comes in its own plastic pouch and the Western supermarket’s well-worn idiom “D’ya wanna bag?” has no Japanese equivalent… of course you want a bag, and a box, and wrapping paper, and a ribbon and bow, and, if your purchase might be a present then you will also be offered a gift bag – all at no extra charge. So nice …but so last century.

Posted by Hawkson 08:24 Archived in Japan

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By the time one figures out the instructions for the toilet it would most likely be too late. Why are we so far behind in toilet art?
Beautiful temples, and am awed by the sense of philosopy and beauty integrated into every day life.

by Sue Fitzwilson

How can you be behind technologically when you have dancing toilets?

by The Vickerage

I just got home from going to Vancouver and back today for a family reunion but when I opened your email although I am tired and ready for bed I got a good giggle after the toilet stories.
love Jean

by Jean McLaren

Fine collection of photos for a final Japan entry. Enjoyed sharing the trip with you. Look forward to a recap when you are home. Safe travels on the next leg.

by Tom

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